Rishi Sunak warned by MPs: Former PM barred from standing again as Nigel Adams resigns, triggering third byelection.
As senior Tories accuse Boris Johnson and his allies of a coordinated effort to disrupt the government, Rishi Sunak faces mounting demands to prevent Johnson from standing as a Conservative candidate in the next election.
In the wake of Johnson’s explosive departure, where he indicated his temporary absence from Westminster and accused a cross-party committee of bias, senior Tories are now united in their endeavor to block his return to the House of Commons.
A prominent member of the Tory backbenchers’ 1922 Committee, who previously supported Johnson, stated that it is the consensus among colleagues that he should be prohibited from seeking another Tory seat in the upcoming election. This sentiment was echoed by another influential backbencher who is close to Sunak and used to back Johnson, emphasizing that Johnson’s disrespectful behavior towards the House of Commons undermines the government and should not be tolerated.
Former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, writing in the Observer, asserts that Johnson’s furious resignation and the prospect of his return present a disaster that should not be turned into an opportunity. Lord Heseltine firmly believes that Johnson should not be allowed to run as a Conservative MP again, as his words lack integrity and a connection to truth. He criticizes Johnson for leaving behind a mess and suggests that while Johnson may pursue financial gain and write his version of history, it will deviate from reality.
Speculation has been rife in Westminster about Johnson’s next move, with some suggesting he may attempt to run in the Mid Bedfordshire byelection following the resignation of Nadine Dorries, one of his staunchest supporters. However, Tory sources dismissed this notion. Meanwhile, Nigel Adams, another close ally of Johnson, has triggered a potentially consequential byelection by announcing his immediate resignation. Sunak was already facing byelections in Johnson’s Uxbridge seat, where Labour is confident of victory, and in Dorries’s constituency, which the Liberal Democrats are targeting.
Certain members of Sunak’s team believe that the actions of a faction of MPs fiercely loyal to Johnson are designed to cause maximum disruption. A minister likened it to a “Thelma and Louise moment,” where they are opting to drive off a cliff together.
Chris Bryant, Labour chair of the Commons standards and privileges committee, who withdrew from the inquiry into Johnson and Partygate, suggests that Johnson may face additional sanctions for the manner of his announcement, possibly being considered a contempt of parliament. Bryant proposes that privileged access to parliament, with an ex-MP pass, should be denied to Johnson for life at the very least.
Johnson resigned as an MP on Friday night after receiving the verdict of the standards committee, which was investigating whether he misled MPs regarding Partygate. The committee, which has a Tory majority, is set to convene on Monday to finalize the report, which is expected to find Johnson guilty of misleading MPs and recommend a suspension from the Commons for over 10 days, triggering a recall petition that could lead to a byelection.
An Opinium poll conducted in late March indicated that a majority of people believed Johnson should resign if the committee found him guilty of misleading MPs about Partygate. Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) felt he should resign, while 64% believed he lied in his testimony to the committee, a claim he vehemently denies.
Party figures assert that frustration has been the predominant response from MPs regarding Johnson’s conduct. Conservative MPs are incensed that Johnson’s departure and the departure of his allies will undermine Sunak’s efforts to restore order within the party, potentially inflicting significant damage. The future of Johnson’s Uxbridge seat, which had a narrow majority in the last election, appears to be slipping into Labour’s hands.
The Liberal Democrats have already launched their campaign
to seize Dorries’s Mid Bedfordshire seat, which boasts a majority of 25,000. While they anticipate a less significant swing compared to recent byelection victories, they have begun distributing 40,000 leaflets to constituents.
Former colleagues of Johnson express doubt about his return within the next five years, stating that he no longer holds a position in parliament and has lost substantial support. They believe that Johnson’s efforts to maintain relevance from a distance will be challenging and that his weak position was exposed when he only received around 20 votes in opposition to the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN